Mary Jo Haverbeck, Penn State communications pioneer, dead at 74

cpassant@centredaily.comJanuary 7, 2014 

Mary Jo Haverbeck, a former member of the College Sports Information Directors of America and the first woman to be inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame, died Monday night, according to a Penn State spokeswoman.

The State College and Wilmington, Del., resident was 74.

Services will be at noon Thursday at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Foster Avenue in State College. Koch Funeral Home is handling the arrangements. Friends will be received at the Parish Life Center following the service. Interment will be in Bethel United Methodist Cemetery in Lewes, Del., at a later date.

Haverbeck, who was the editor of Penn State’s athletic department website, retired in 1999.

Also that year, she became the profession’s first woman recognized for 25 years of service. In 2000 she was the first woman to win the College Sports Information Director’s Arch Ward Award for sports information. She won CoSIDA’s first Trailblazer Award in 2001, according to Penn State information.

Her 1998 website on Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s 300th career victory was judged “Best in the Nation” by CoSIDA.

“We are saddened by the passing of Mary Jo Haverbeck,” Dave Joyner, director of athletics at Penn State, said in a news release. “Mary Jo truly was a pioneer in the athletic communications field, not only at Penn State, but nationwide. Mary Jo played a critical role in the growth and awareness of Penn State women’s athletics, in particular. She was great mentor and friend to Penn State students, student-athletes, coaches and many others who were in athletic communications and the media.”

Haverbeck earned a master’s degree in journalism from Penn State in 1975 and a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Delaware in 1961.

She continued writing until her death, as a freelance writer in regional and national publications, a contributor and an editor and writer of Through the Hoop, a privately owned publication covering Penn State sports.

“Mary Jo was a pioneer in females starting careers in sports information and in the media covering sports,” said Ellen Perry, who served Penn State Athletics for 36 years, including as associate athletic director and senior woman administrator from 1989-02. “Mary Jo represented our women’s sports teams and Penn State exceptionally well.”

She also was an instructor at Penn State in the journalism department and taught the News Writing and Reporting course for undergraduates in the College of Communications and was the creator and instructor of an elective course introducing students to the sports information profession, according to Penn State information.

From 1984 to 1999, Haverbeck was Penn State’s associate sports information director, and from 1974 to 1984, she was the university’s assistant sports information director.

She began her career as an elementary schoolteacher in Delaware, but her work took her around the world for several public relations, public information, television, writing and editing jobs, including the BBC in Liverpool, England, and the University of Delaware.

She also was involved with various NCAA communications committees for women’s and men’s basketball, was the press operations manager for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games in 1996, served as press officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1983 in Caracas, Venezuela, and was a press officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1981 in Syracuse, N.Y.

“Mary Jo was a woman pioneer in her profession,” said Sue Delaney-Scheetz, a member of the Penn State Athletics staff for 29 years, serving as associate athletic Director and senior woman administrator from 2002-11. “Mary Jo was instrumental in publicizing and promoting women’s athletics at Penn State and across the nation. She was respected by her peers and nationally recognized for her dedication and hard work.”

Haverbeck was preceded in death by her parents, Joe and Mildred Haverbeck, and is survived by her long-time friend Gillian Rattray of State College.

Follow Christopher Passante on Twitter @ChrisPassanteCDT.

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